“The West Surrey Cyclist” - July - September 2003
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Front cover - very similar to previous issue
Inner front cover - West Surrey CTC District Association - same as in previous issue
Editorial front matter - as in previous issue
Riding Around - with the Editor
Organisers - Please Take Note
Get the Magazine Delivered for £3 a Year
Surrey Scorathon - Sunday May 18th - report by Keith Chesterton
Jumble Jollies - by Rosalind Banks
More Notes From a Small Island - by Joe Perfecto
Europe End to End - The Final Leg - by Dennis Clarke
Right to Ride - by Peter Clint
THOSE fortunate people who are spoon-fed the magazine, passing over a bit of spare change at a coffee or lunch stop in return for this recurring literary masterpiece, will this time have experienced the pain of a 100 per cent increase in the cover price, from 50p to £1. What a to-do!
A cursory check of the annual finances will reveal that the mag is heavily subsidised and you will be forgiven the thought that the price increase is an attempt to combat this.
Partly true. But the new pricing structure will hopefully encourage even more readers to switch to the annual payment, which remains at £3 for four issues delivered home - usually by post.
Under Tom Hargreaves’ guidance and application, the yearly subscription scheme has been a great success, most members, once persuaded to part with their £3, happily renewing promptly at the appropriate time. They find it an advantage to have the mag safely delivered and we at this end appreciate the better accountability the subscription scheme supplies.
I urge waverers to get on board. Any officer, committee member, or ride leader will be delighted to take your £3 in hard cash to get you started if you do not trust yourself to getting round to sending Tom a cheque (payable to West Surrey CTC). So in that regard you can continue to wallow in the luxury of being spoon-fed - just one more time.
But whatever you do, please continue to support the magazine and the DA by buying your own copy. ’Tis a small price to pay, considering the amount of effort which goes into producing it AND getting it into your hands.
THE early May bank holiday touring weekend based at the YHA hostel in Lulworth Cove was a qualified success, 12 riders taking part under the leadership of Tom Hargreaves. The programme and companionship were appreciated by all but Tom reports that future jaunts of this nature involving overnights might be better if accommodation was not fixed in the one place but rather left to participants finding their own accommodation, based on their own preferences, once the venue has been decided. What do you think?
ALTHOUGH remaining ever-enthusiastic, committee member Peter Clint feels he may have bitten off more than he can chew with taking on a Right To Ride representative role in part of Woking and Weybridge. He will tell anyone who is prepared to listen that it could be almost a full-time job for him if he was prepared to let it be so.
Read his piece in this issue and judge for yourself. You might also then feel as I do that Peter deserves considerable congratulations on his success in a recent dealing with HM Government.
In response to a lengthy letter from him concerning the width of some road cycle lanes, Peter received a personal reply from Alistair Darling, Minister for Transport - reward indeed for his efforts.
Note also the Minister’s suggestion that lobbying councils on this subject, giving specific details of narrow lanes, would not come amiss. Send details direct to Peter, phone 01932 848573. This could have a positive result. After all, Peter truly has the ear of the Minister on this one.
I ENJOYED a chat with Brian Morris, Chairman of the CTC’s national council, during the meet-up with Reading CTC DA at Englefield Green in March.
The occasion was the handing-over by Roy Banks, our President, of the ceremonial pump as part of the Round The Regions Rides programme commemorating the Club’s 125th anniversary.
Brian gave me a coloured credit card-sized card he had personally prepared giving some details of the CTC, how cyclists can become members, and why they should do so.
If these cards were mass-produced the idea would be for members to carry a few of them in their back pockets whenever they ride and hand them out to fellow cyclists they meet.
Good thinking, Brian! This is one example of promotional material I would be pleased to distribute.
YIPPEE, Surrey County Council has done a revamp of its colourful and free Surrey Cycleway booklet. Out has gone the full route description (right turns, left turns, and straight across instructions), which is a shame, but in has come recognition that Woking actually exists. Last time round the booklet had an unnecessary compass symbol superimposed on the map over what would have been the town and, indeed, the entire borough.
The cycleway itself is, of course, well signed throughout, as are the links to it to and from Leigh, Dorking, Leith Hill, Caterham, Outwood & Smallfield, Farnham, Cranleigh, and Haslemere. The Woking and Egham link is marked with a dotted line as a “future link” which presumably means that the signs, via West Byfleet and Ripley to Coombe Bottom, will eventually be put in place.
But the said map is a great improvement on the earlier version and at much larger scale, with all roads on the cycleway clearly named on the map itself. This means of course that it should be easier to navigate the route clockwise as well as anti-clockwise as the previous notation recommended.
The actual sheet of paper in the pre-folded leaflet is a third smaller than previously and not quite as good quality. The information surrounding the map is useful and to the point, although the panel on bicycle shops is nowhere near as comprehensive as it should be.
Having said that, an excellent innovation from Surrey County Council is the commissioning of a smaller version of the entire new leaflet which can be used as a kind of throwaway job. In other words, the idea as I see it is to keep the mini-booklet in the back pocket for quick reference and the larger leaflet in the pannier for detailed reference in conjunction with an OS map for instance.
Make sure you get copies of both from council offices and tourist information centres. They are jolly useful.
As an afterthought, should we ask SCC to run off the route description as an A4 insert to the booklet to help strangers?
Concerning the familiar white-on-brown metallic signs marked Surrey Cycleway and with a bike symbol, do take the trouble to let the county council’s cycling officer know if you spot any which have been vandalised or turned round the wrong way by pranksters and malcontents. Phone Bernard Salway on 020 8541 9939, email firstname.lastname@example.org
SUNDAY May 25th was a day Joe Perfecto will never forget although, as he quipped at the time: “You tell me it is Sunday? My body sure doesn’t know that.”
Joe, a stalwart of Sacramento Bike Hikers, had successfully completed his first air-trip outside of the US, going the long way from California with a change at Chicago, to be met by me.
After a smooth exit from Terminal 3 at 9 am and his bagged bike safely in my car we were back at Woking in time to say hello to the Sunday Intermediates and Wayfarers who had assembled at Woking Post Office. A further rendezvous at the designated coffee stop was hastily arranged, which entailed Joe and me driving to my home, getting the bikes out - I loaned him one of mine in view of the need for a rapid turnround - and pedalling away by 10 am, just two hours after Joe’s plane had landed at Heathrow.
After 27 hours-plus without proper rest, the poor chap could not really have known where he was, so I led him at a fairly brisk pace through the delights of Chobham and Longcross and on to Pantiles garden centre, Lyne. Brisk pace? - Well, I reasoned that if we had taken it easy he was in danger of falling off and going to sleep.
We met up with the Intermediates in Lyne and then gratifyingly reached the coffee stop before the majority of Wayfarers had arrived. Joe was obviously high on adrenalin because not only did he manage to keep left - something he had not experienced before - but was soon overhauling me on the hills.
He had, nonchalantly, asked me about the mileage to and from coffee and was pleased when I said it was about 12 - 15 round-trip. Of course, I got that wrong. We continued with the Wayfarers to Windsor Great Park and Windsor itself, Joe marvelling at all this royalty and historical stuff we take for granted. We had clocked up a nifty 38.5 miles by the time we arrived back home.
In this period, Joe had also consumed his first glass of English real ale. This gave him the taste for more at Wetherspoons, to which we repaired in the early evening after a quick wash and brush-up.
Joe eventually accepted the inevitable and retired for the night at around 10pm. As I say, it was an unforgettable day for him. He should be able to dine out for some time on this somewhat extreme introduction to the cycling life in England and his somewhat bizarre way of dealing with jetlag.
I hope you enjoy reading Joe’s own account of his time with us English cyclists elsewhere in this issue.
My fourth Surrey scorathon, from Bramley, was in last year’s easy format, with the clues being in order round a straightforward route. Three people found all the clues, so they were all there.
The first clue: Wonersh Green is a pleasant enclosed area by the church. Those who went down Lawbrook Lane found the answer to “Should you ignore this instruction if 9 months pregnant?” - it was “Do Not Push” on a gate!
I enjoyed cycling round, finding clues, and I was particularly pleased to find the tarmacked bridleways by Brookwell. I had a 5-mile ride past bluebells, primroses, cowslips and many other flowers, and met just one car. So to those of you who live in Woking, it’s worth coming out to find some decent country!
Not all were competitive, but it was close and time penalties decided the final positions. Well done Keith McClurey for “winning” for the second year in succession - and thanks to all 14 who participated - but there were facilities for many more. Next year?
Note - 2 points were lost for every minute back over the 4 hours allowed. So, for example, John & Jane Gilbe lost 40 points for taking 4 hours 20 minutes. Although guesses could be penalised by a deduction, I did not make any this time.
OUR DA’s stand at the Ripley Bike Jumble event was a moderate success. President Roy Banks was the main person in charge on the day, with Peter and Ros Banks helping out in between being on twins duty.
We obtained the DA publicity stand from Tom Hargreaves and Roy collected some additional material and photos to add to the club magazine and runs list.
We sold 13 magazines and had a steady trickle of interest. Mostly we found that those showing an interest were already riding with clubs nearer to London but were interested in broadening their horizons by coming further west. Whether or not any of them will join remains to be seen.
Overall, Roy felt it was worth having the stand again next year - especially as the organisers waived the £5 fee.
JUST a few days ago, when Editor Geoff was haranguing me for the fourth time or so about doing an article, I commented that he shouldn’t expect anything much, just a few paragraphs. In the spirit of good self-censorship, his reply cannot be printed here. Suffice it to say that I thought it wise to approach the task a bit more earnestly. As things have developed, I find that on this, the evening before my return to the US, I have enough material to fill this newsletter several times over. I’d even write that much if I had the time, but an hour is all I have left, and so I’ll of necessity be both brief and less orderly than I’d prefer. What follows is probably a hodgepodge of related items. I say “probably” because I haven’t yet written it, and what’s to come is as much a mystery to me as it is to you. Well, almost.
The roundabouts were confusing at first, but I quickly got used to them, and I realized that they make more sense than the US stop signs, which require you to stop regardless of whether there’s a good reason to do so.
Where are the road signs? They are spotty at best. Long stretches of many roads have none at all. This causes grief even for you Brits. I encountered a man in Hyde Park who needed the loo; he bemoaned the poor signage in the park. I commented that the same applied to the roads, and he clearly shared my frustration. Why, even on my first ride here, as Geoff, Richard, Debbie and I traversed Windsor Park (we just missed seeing Prince C. fall off his polo pony), we got lost several times. After great concentration and effort on Richard’s part, we finally found our way.
You must admit there is no small irony in this situation: A nation that is one of history’s all-time greatest explorers, colonizers and cartographers has a road system that, while extensive, is nearly as poorly marked as that of 19th-century Japan.
Plus, these roads, laid long before the advent of the motorcar, are woefully narrow. There isn’t a lorry in the land that can, on all too many streets, manage to keep out of the opposing lane without gouging out a three-foot swath of hedgerow. This always makes for great fun and excitement when one comes up from behind and begins passing me on a blind curve just moments before a car appears in the opposing lane. Frequently I’ve seen such vehicles pass within about 12 angstroms of each other, at a combined speed of 80 MPH or better.
Also, motorists here (at least in the south) are assertive - no, aggressive. Supposedly this is due to high stress levels. Well, sure - I’d be stressed out if the US had narrow roads that permitted parking, which effectively reduces a two-lane road to a one-lane road. All things considered, I guess Brits do better than many Americans would do under similar circumstances.
It is widely known that Britain’s transportation arteries are clogged with petrol-powered “car-lesterol.” The analogy with the circulatory system is an apt and an accurate one; the clogs tend to decrease as the roads lessen in prominence. But roads often appear deceptively quiet. When I arrived in Shanklin, IoW yesterday (6 June), I thought, “Sleepy little village.” This was wrong. For a small island town, it certainly has a lot of vehicles careening along the gutters. Numerous times during the course of one short evening, I had to wait altogether too long to cross the street. Someone really ought to set these people straight. I mean, they live on an island, for God’s sake! How far do they have to go? (How far can they go?) Can’t they walk or bike or even roller-blade?
I’ve ridden in heavy traffic in, among other places, Guildford and London. Granted, Guildford is home to a university (and to a lovely green-eyed Scots lass named Michelle with whom I talked on the train today from Portsmouth to Guildford), which is bound to generate a good deal of traffic (I doubt if Michelle generates much traffic, but you never know). Outside of that, I - stupid American that I am - didn’t figure there’d be the unrelenting sea I experienced at rush hour. It’s a virtual tidal wave.
London is a phenomenon unto itself. It seems almost as if every single paved surface inside the M25 beltway is having a shadow cast upon it at any given moment. The sheer volume is truly staggering and apparently unrelenting.
The mere act of cycling in London traffic constitutes a true trial by fire. Street traffic is a mix of mammoth double-deckers; legions of the ubiquitous “Jitney” taxicabs (surely this British fixture exists in the realm of Jungian archetypes) that seem to multiply like aphids; whining mopeds; delivery vans of various stripes; lorries massive and miniscule; all manner of passenger vehicles; construction vehicles (London is forever under (re)construction) and corresponding blockages and diversions; occasional shrieking police units leaving a flashing blue blur in their wake; and other cyclists and “bike riders” (the sort who often pedal with their heels, legs splayed, and who do not shift gears under any circumstances).
Add to all this the fact that any and all of those may come rocketing out from a side street (and when you’re passing gridlocked traffic on the left, pedestrians exhibit a marked proclivity to dart out into your path from between the stopped cars), there are innumerable obstacles in your path, and you have to contend with all this while riding on the wrong side of the road, and you can see that this is a volatile and dangerous mix indeed.
Thus can I say with some measure of pride that I willingly spun into that fray and, a very few close calls notwithstanding, I now wear the badge of honor that’s known as merely living to tell the tale.
It is widely held that British weather is volatile and unpredictable - but this applies only to the region that falls between Land’s End, Dover and John o’Groats. I had the weather figured out by the end of my first day here. Its mercurial nature can be expressed thus: “Drizzle. Sunshine. Drizzle. Cloudiness. Rain. Sunshine.” This can be successfully applied to most any three-hour period.
Well, I’ve reached the end of my written notes, so it’s time to go off the cuff. And, of course, you’re wondering if/when I’ll mention any of the West Surrey DA rides and members; the answer is yes/soon.
But first....I Almost Saw The Queen. On Coronation Day anniversary, we were across from Westminster Abbey. But so were many hundreds of other people, and they were all in front of me, and they were all taller than me.
Do you know that certain roads in West Surrey pass right by MOD training areas, and there are likely to be soldiers shooting off guns just 50 yards from you? There is also the possibility of finding unexploded ordnance in these areas. I’d stay away from there were I you, but if you must explore, do wear a helmet.
What is it with the Brits and tea??? I proved to be an absolute disaster as an ersatz Brit in this aspect - I just don’t like the stuff! Geoff tried to get me into the ritual, suggesting I take it with milk, first thing in the morning. Despite his waking me at a ridiculous hour for several mornings consecutively and leaving a proper cup outside the door, it was to no avail. I was untrainable.
About halfway into my stay we visited the venerable Capt. Bill Thompson to view his wondrous collection of vintage bikes. Marion Thompson graciously treated us on the patio to a deluxe tea complete with sandwiches with the crust cut off and everything. As the liquid tea was being served, I saw there was no escape, so I hunkered down for the duration. Although some very appealing lemon slices were available for the tea, I was told that the English don’t use lemon, that only the French do that, and that they don’t know how to make tea anyway.
Well, I certainly didn’t want to be grouped in with that French lot. On reflection I imagine the lemon might have been offered as a test to see whether I’d be so uncouth as to take any and thus be shown to be as bad as the frogs. (By the way, I wouldn’t have taken lemon, but it’s because I don’t like lemon in tea.)
So maybe I passed the lemon litmus test, or maybe not. But I know I failed overall. After the milk was added to the tea I stirred it and let it sit, because I can’t drink anything that’s very hot. After a little while, our hostess admonished me saying “You have to drink it hot.” This was a Catch-22 situation. Things then went downhill quickly. Geoff explained to her that he’d made several attempts to get me on tea but that I’d surreptitiously dumped it down the sink. (I’ve no idea how he knew this.)
Apparently a refined appreciation for the “proper cup of tea” is among the primary underpinnings of the Empire and an integral part of the British psyche, and without it you are not truly British. So much for my plans of dual citizenship.
While I didn’t get out of the south, and I rode just a short bit of the eastern coast of the Isle of Wight, I am sure that the rest of the country has riding at least as good as in this region, and it’s quite good here. In fact, I often reflected on how similar these wooded areas are to the hills and vales of the South San Francisco Bay Area. (By the way, one tip for anyone who’s planning to ride in the countryside: there are lots of insects about, so unless you want to end up like me and get a whole mouthful of gnats at the end of a fast downhill, shut yer cake ’ole...)
This is just one of the similarities to riding back in the States. We like our coffee stops, you like your tea breaks, but the purpose is the same. The banter at coffee/tea, at lunch and on the road is much the same. We face the same challenges on the road, the same concerns, have the same needs. Mostly the bike brands are different, but even that is changing.
I’d like to think I have a new circle of cycling comrades here in the UK to add to the ones in my clubs back home. Surely you have been as welcoming and as kind as the best of the bunch in the States. I wish I had the time to describe all the rides and the people who have made my stay a memorable one, but it isn’t meant to be.
I do want to say that I found all of the tea stops charming, all of the pubs delightful, and the people interesting. Your Capt. Bill reminds me of a fellow who was killed last year while on his bike. At his memorial service the hall was filled with 500 people because he was a giant in the Sacramento cycling community. Like the Capt., he was handy with tools and could build or repair anything cycling-related.
Many thanks to the people who chatted with me on the rides - you know who you are, and even though I am not good about remembering your names, you will not be forgotten. Expect some copies of the photos I took on the rides to be coming your way soon.
Before I close, I must make meritorious mention of one among your number. I have mentioned how towns can appear deceiving regarding their traffic; this also applies to cyclists and their apparent abilities. Take, say, your editor, Geoff Smith. Most people would likely say, “Look at that puny punter. Bit of a wobbler, I’d guess. I hope he has enough sense to get off the bike in a stiff breeze before he tips over.” Yet Geoff is in fact a highly-accomplished pedaler. In his ground-level “cloak room” the walls are literally covered with certificates of achievement from countless rides in places ranging from John o’Groats to Johannesburg. The display is truly impressive and time-consuming - and toward this end, for the viewer’s convenience, this trophy room doubles as a loo.
I am sure that unless you participated in any of Geoff’s various endeavors, you have no concept of the extent of his exploits, for Geoff is the model of modesty.
So much more to say but no more time for saying it. I do regret that I cannot spend more time in this place that is at once very strange and very familiar. And a bit earlier today Geoff commented to me that it was a shame I have to leave so soon because I’d now gotten the hang of the British way of life and he could send me anywhere on my own with no worries. To that I say, nothin’ to it, punter - Bob’s your uncle. (Well, except for the tea thing - I just can’t get into that!). And so, until we meet again, cheers, mates, and have a care.
STOCKHOLM’S Arlanda Airport, Sunday 23 July 2000 and it’s raining. I’m about to set out on the fourth and last stage of my European End-to-End. The three completed stages had brought me two thousand, six hundred and eleven miles from Tarifa in southern Spain to the Swedish capital and there remained one thousand, one hundred and eighty-three before the North Cape of Norway. In other words I still had almost a third of the overall distance to do, which gives some measure of how far north Scandinavia stretches.
In the days before I left, the news channels at home had been showing severe floods in central Sweden, so I had been expecting the rain. What I hadn’t expected after years of trouble-free flight with our national airline (and they never charge for a bicycle, either) was for the rear wheel of the trusty Galaxy to have been bent beyond repair. This was the first and only mechanical trouble of the whole trip; I hadn’t even had a puncture.
The baggage-handling agent recorded the damage and handed me a docket which, he assured me, would be honoured in any bike repair shop in the area. I manhandled bike and baggage (the rim was too distorted to wheel the bike) to the bus stop to travel the twenty or so miles into Uppsala, famed for its university and Anders Celsius, inventor of the centigrade thermometer. Uppsala’s other famous son is Karl Linnaeus, the botanist who studied, lived and died there, and founded the system of classifying plants by Latin names.
Uppsala also has two bike shops but, needless to say, when I took the wheel in for rebuilding early on Monday morning, neither of them recognised the BA “promise to pay” docket. However, Viktor’s shop had a Mavic rim in stock and he undertook to rebuild the wheel by lunchtime, which he did. I picked it up before midday, paid for it (I recovered the money later from BA in the UK) and set off north to Gävle.
When planning the End-to-End I had opted for the easier route for the Scandinavian leg. The east coast of Sweden along the Gulf of Bothnia is fairly flat. The alternative would have been the west coast of Norway with its mountains (with road tunnels through them), fjords and notorious rain. I still had the rain for the first few days in Sweden but the terrain was easier.
As I progressed north there were several days of grim “grit your teeth and get on with it” sort of weather, strong headwinds and periods of relentless rain, reducing me at times to little more than walking pace. The rivers running into the Gulf were all in severe spate with evidence of waterside buildings having been swept away after what I was told had been two months of rain. However, by Wednesday afternoon on the undulating Sundsvall - Härnösand road the skies cleared to reveal a beautiful stretch of coast leading down to a gloriously blue sea, a heartwarming sight after the drab and chill greyness of the past three days.
I could now start to enjoy the Swedish cycling experience. In good weather it is excellent for cycling, albeit there is not much scenic variety; it is mostly lakes and forest. It has a reputation for being expensive but needn’t be so. The excellent youth hostels are less than £10 a night, breakfast is usually available at £2-3 and lunch can usually be had for less than £5 if you have the daily menu in a roadhouse. It seems to follow a standard format; choice of meat or fish with vegetables or pasta, salad from a buffet, a soft drink and coffee. It is nourishing, plain and inexpensive and you’ll usually be sharing it with dozens of Swedes who are also looking for good value.
For evening meals there are pizza and pasta places or if you are in a hostel you can prepare something bought from a supermarket. You can live well on £25 a day. Alcohol, however, is expensive, as are upmarket restaurants where your £25 will hardly cover a few drinks.
After the inclement weather and difficult conditions of the first few days I was now enjoying the familiar daily rhythm of cycle touring. Warm sunshine, good roads and encounters with friendly people, who almost always spoke English, took me northwards via Örnsköldsvik, Umeå and Luleå to Haparanda at the top of the Gulf of Bothnia right on the Finnish border (and somewhat incongruously boasting a good Chinese restaurant). It was Monday, eight days and six hundred and fifty miles since Stockholm.
I was now one day from the Arctic Circle and was having trouble sleeping at night, if one could call it night. It was just after midsummer, didn’t get dark and, pleasant as it was to sit outside in the sun at midnight, it played havoc with my sleep patterns. And it was getting worse the further north I went. I resorted to propping a bed, a mattress or a wardrobe against the bedroom windows but was not always successful in blocking out the two o’clock in the morning daylight.
Across the bridge to Tornio in Finland and then I turned northwards to Rovaniemi the capital of and the gateway to Lapland. It is just a few miles south of the Arctic Circle, which I crossed the next day soon after setting off. I took the obligatory photograph and continued north as the pine trees thinned out to waterlogged tundra. I hadn’t been in such a vast and uninhabited wilderness since Andalusia in southern Spain. The small towns and settlements became increasingly sparse as I pressed on via Sodankylå and Ivalo to Kaamanen, where the hostel guest book contained comments about sightings of the northern lights which can be seen in all their glory on clear winter nights. I turned westward to the Norwegian border (the road east led to Murmansk in arctic Russia), crossed a remote and insignificant bridge into Norway and was now within two days of my final destination.
The North Cape is on an island, reached, according to the map I had, by a ferry across a narrow strip of water. However, a few months before I got there, the ferry had been rendered obsolete by the opening of a five miles long tunnel blasted through the undersea rock. I tried to get through this gloomy, damp and dripping underworld as quickly as possible after being spooked by the three vehicles which came through while I was in there. There would be a roar as the car entered the tunnel even if it was a couple of miles away, which would increase in intensity and volume until it felt as though it was right behind and about to devour you. Look around and the headlights would still be half a mile away. At this point I would dismount and cower against the oozing rock wall until the hellish roar had passed.
A night in an attic room in the Arctic Hotel in Honningsvåg (all other rooms were occupied by a Swiss coach party) and twenty-one miles the next day through impressive mountain and fjord scenery delivered me in glorious sunshine to Nordkapp. The End-to-End finished as it had begun, under cloudless blue skies at the edge of Europe. Three thousand, seven hundred and seventy-four miles and fifty and a half cycling days earlier I had been at the southern tip of Spain gazing on to Africa. Now I was standing on this magnificently desolate headland on the northern edge of Europe with nothing but the Barents Sea and Spitzbergen between me and the icy wastes of the Arctic. I turned back to Honningsvåg with, yes, a sense of achievement but also a tinge of regret that it was all over.
This is the boring article, no humour, just facts and a request for your help to improve the lot of cyclists throughout Surrey.
Recently, amongst other engagements, I attended a meeting chaired by Surrey County Council and a number of their full-time staff. Also included were full-time employees of Woking Borough Council as well as other cycle user groups. This was set up to discuss how best communications could be improved between the councils and groups interested in road development such as cyclists and pedestrians, as well as giving us the opportunity of expressing any concerns we might have to the council.
It was clear that the degree of consultation had not been satisfactory in the past, but with central government persuasion involving the carrot and the stick, all this is about to change! In future where councils achieve a greater level of non-motorised usage, they will be rewarded financially; failure will reduce or cancel those potential rewards. To achieve success Surrey County Council is determined to seek our help.
To enable us to appreciate the way new road schemes are developed, we were guided through the various stages leading to action [set out below], and were promised that wherever our interests were involved, we would be engaged in discussions from Stage 2:-
|Stage 1||A pre-feasibility study, i.e. an idea|
|Stage 2||Consultation with all interested parties.|
|Stage 3||Feasibility Study, i.e. is the idea practical?|
|Stage 4||Consultation between Woking BC & Surrey CC [finance]|
|Stage 5||Further audit regarding practicality and safety.|
|Stage 6||Final plan to Woking BC & Surrey CC.|
|Stage 7||When completed, a final ground audit to establish the work has been carried out properly.|
The budget for cycle projects within Surrey is not large and limited to £572K this year, with a further £100K potentially available from general funds for special projects. In addition each county councillor has a personal allocation of £17,500 which can be used to finance local projects of any nature, either alone or together with another councillor, i.e. two county councillors could combine to spend £35,000 on a single project. The point is that it is always worthwhile approaching Surrey County Councillors for their support for local minor projects, should you believe you can make a good case. It is up to you to ensure we get a share of this cake.
One bit of good news is that the Surrey Cycleway Map is now available and can be obtained free of charge from the town hall. Better still is that the gaps between this and the Transport for London map have been filled, enabling those with appropriate maps to plan their travel without having to feel their way between the two.
For some time I have been very concerned at the lack of width of some on-road cycle lanes, particularly where they are punctuated by sunken drain covers. For this reason I wrote at length to the Minister of Transport pointing out to him the dangers such lanes present to cyclists. I explained that motorists expect cyclists to stay within marked lanes, and being forced to cycle outside them increases danger to cyclists.
Alistair Darling MP was good enough to reply to me in person, explaining that central government have no powers to legislate on such matters, but could only give guidance. At present guidance on minimum widths suggests lanes should not be less that 1200mm with 1500mm being preferred. The government is shortly to issue a new document to all councils, “Cycle-Friendly Infrastructure - Guidelines for Planning and Design”, which will strongly recommend these guidelines are adhered to in the future. The Minister suggested that wherever we feel lanes to be too narrow, we should lobby councillors both individually and as a club. If I can help please contact me, preferably in writing stating exactly where you feel the council has failed, and I will do my best to bring such matters to their attention.
As a direct result of the above I raised the fact that lanes on both Brewery Lane and Lockfield Drive fail at some points to meet the recommended minimum width. Apparently, however, Brewery Lane is not an approved on-road cycle lane, although even Surrey County Councillors said they were confused. It is, in reality, part of a traffic-calming scheme, the theory being that by pushing traffic towards the centre of the road, speeds will be reduced by 1%! I was informed that cycle lanes can always be recognised by the cycle symbol, which must appear within the lanes at regular intervals. It was agreed that the distances between these symbols will be shortened in future to avoid confusion. As for Lockfield Drive, this is still to be audited [Stage 7], and if found to be less than 1200mm will be re-marked.
Another matter raised by me was that of sunken drain covers and the desirability of under-pavement drainage. Since Surrey County Council are now responsible for all roads in the county, this seemed an excellent opportunity to raise this problem. I explained such defects in the road system provide obstacles to not only cyclists but to road users in general, effectively narrowing the road. Having been informed that under-pavement drainage costs no more than on-road drainage, I insisted that we record our request for all new and replacement drainage to be under-pavement. If in future you become aware of any new road scheme where this is not being done, raise the matter with your County Council representative. Only by making a noise are we likely to change thinking at County Hall.
I am pleased to report that my comments relating to the consultants’ report have been permanently bound in with this document, as Surrey County Council regard these as being useful for reference purposes once the scheme becomes live.
On 14th March last I passed a note about seeking your help regarding the above. I asked if you knew of any traffic lights within or near Woking where you feel the addition of Advanced Stopping Points would improve cyclists’ safety, or indeed where they may have been removed during resurfacing and not replaced.
Since that date I have heard nothing!
It may be you did not see my note, but without your help we cannot improve the lot of cyclists.
Once more, can you help, and indeed are there any other matters you feel I should raise with Woking or Surrey Councils?
Thanks for reading this
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Web page by Chris Jeggo. Last revised: 14 October 2009.